UNK SEZ:: Hey look it’s an AMERICAN VAMIRE FUNHOUSE! How many vampire movie posters do you recognize? Thanks to our pals at DC COMICS somebody out there will win the nice new hard cover book that collects the first five issues of AMERICAN VAMPIRE by SCOTT SNYDER, RAFAEL ALBUQUERGUE and some dude named STEPHEN KING! Get your fangs out and good luck to all!
I think I was the exact wrong age to appreciate INVADERS FROM MARS when it crashed into theaters. I was too old to take it seriously and too young to take it humorously. Now that I’m in my introspective, open-minded post-prime you’d think I ‘d be able to rediscover it as a diamond in the rough but nah, same as ever, my patented me-likey meter still reads “not so much.” Yep, I’m saying my TOBE HOOPER love train jumps a smidge off the track with INVADERS FROM MARS but that’s O.K. What’s a romance without a splash of apathy?
On paper we’re made for each other, INVADERS, based on the 1953 classic of the same title, is basically a kid’s eye view of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (the original INVADERS actually predates SNATCHERS.) The material can’t help but capture a specific and crucial time in any adolescent’s life when they begin questioning the motives of their parents and start forming their own perceptions of the world. If you can find a decent copy of it (good luck with that) the original is a trippy mind-bending maze of forced perspectives that functions like a pint-sized, paranoid WIZARD OF OZ. There may be some movies that shouldn’t be remade but this isn’t one of them. Every generation deserves their very own INVADERS FROM MARS.
HOOPER gets some important things right in his re-do. He’s able to modernize the tale without completely evaporating the previous take’s naiveté and who knows better how to collide the everyday with the bizarre? We’re invited into a picturesque home with a cartoon picket fence and doesn’t that hilly pathway in the backyard look like it leads directly to Munchkin land? It’s a hokey patchwork paradise but no worries, we’re dealing with a remake of a fifties film so the cardboard ideal makes sense. Some of the visuals really do chime and reverberate. I love how HOOPER transforms a simple window in a child’s bedroom into a portal into another world, that’s some good stuff. So where does the crystal ball get dropped?
What I like about the HOOPER is his looseness but yep, that’s his downfall too. The second half of INVADERS is as slack as a wet noodle. Plus, I can’t believe I’m saying this about the guy who directed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but I think he can be too lenient with his performers. Was he afraid to ask for a second take from this bunch?
TIMOTHY BOTTOMS and LOUISE FLETCHER get it right the first time but some of the other apparently on the D.L. thespians here need discipline! I appreciate that HUNTER CARSON is not your typical precocious Hollywood imp but sometimes he sounds like he’s reading the back of a cereal box. Furthermore, like any self-respecting horror fan I’ve saved room for KAREN BLACK in my last will and testament but in my opinion she is miscast here. She’s too transtasticly fierce to pull off a fumbling schoolmarm/nurse. Is it too late for her and LARAINE NEWMAN who plays the kid’s mom to switch roles?
What’s that you say Aunt John? It IS too late for that? 24 years too late in fact? Fine, it was just a suggestion. A suggestion that made absolute sense considering BLACK is CARSON’s real life mommy and that she can play creepy better than nearly anyone but hey, who listens to me? What do I know?
All right, enough with the negative. I didn’t start writing because I needed to find a new way to bitch (…or did I?) INVADERS FROM MARS is fun. Not terribly fun but fun enough. My eyes glaze over a bit when the military gets involved but that’s not exclusive to this movie. I only enjoy the military in movies when they are fighting giant ants. I think this movie is worthwhile just for LOUISE FLETCHER really. She doesn’t need to steal scenes, people just hand them over to her and then thank her for the privilege of being robbed.
I’m thinking there’s plenty out there who get warm fuzzy nostalgia vapors over INVADERS and I don’t begrudge them that in the slightest. Its got its fair share of fumbled opportunities and foul balls but it’s a kid’s movie that’s willing to get dark and twisted and that is always welcome here. I might suggest watching RETURN TO OZ instead but I used to make my Han Solo and Princess Leia action figures get married (with Chewie as the best man) so you might want to ask somebody cooler than me.
Wait, wait, in the words of CURT COBAIN, I have a new complaint. Nice job on the Martian monsters recently departed and forever will be missed STAN WINSTON, but it’s painfully obvious that you made exactly and only two (not counting the leader-brain). They keep dying and reappearing but you only ever see two at a time! You and TOBE couldn’t get together and figure out something with split screens or blue screens or miniatures or something? How about a mirror? A simple mirror would have worked. Two does not seem like very many monster costumes to me. I think there were at least three Sleestak suits in LAND OF THE LOST. I guess that’s probably the least of INVADERS problems but I’m just saying…
You know what? The sand whirlpool thing works better in the original and that’s not really acceptable either…
So, INVADERS FROM MARS is not my favorite HOOPER movie by a long shot but it’ll do in a pinch. Like a pop-tent without a pole I suppose you can squirm in there to get out of the rain if you have to, but a little more ingenuity and whip cracking would have made a universe of difference. It’s starts well and I admire its intentions, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I went from happy to nappy before the end and I mean the FINAL end because there are like, three endings. Yes, this movie has more endings than it does monster costumes and that’s never a good idea. Still, LOUISE FLETCHER, she undeniably owns.
Hi, I really enjoy your site, so I figured I should contribute…
One of many things that scared me as a kid was one of the early covers for THE EXORCIST novel by WILLIAM PETER BLATTY.
I was a friend’s house and spotted it on a shelf and found the image of the girl so scary it gave me nightmares for days. Yet every time I would go to his place I would find some excuse to have a peek, compelled to face my fear.
Compelled or not, I did not want to be left alone in that room with the book, no matter how many lights were on.
Even now, I find that image more frightening than LINDA BLAIR in the DICK SMITH makeup (with no disrespect intended).
P.S.: I have another story to tell about a show that scared me as a kid, but I’ll save that story for next time.
UNK SEZ:: Thanks DK, I’ve always been fascinated by that book cover too. Have you ever heard THIS HERE tidbit before?
I recently discovered your site a few days ago and have been scrolling through it ever since. I think I’m going to have to watch some of your favourite movies, as my enjoyment of horror films (even the so-bad-they’re-good ones) is slowly being reawakened.
After doing a quick search, it seems one of my many childhood traumas has not been posted yet, so here goes. It involves that ‘80s T.V. series THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
Now, I was never terrified by the Hulk. Even though I was only 5 or 6 when it was on, and even though he was big and green and monstrous, I knew he was the good guy, and never meant anyone any real harm. And I adored him. No, it wasn’t him that traumatized me.
It was that other guy, the Evil Hulk.
He was much scrawnier in comparison, but those dilated white eyes, those bushy black eyebrows, that snarl, the hair that looked like he just licked his finger and stuck it into an electrical socket. He was a horrific version of the hero I knew and loved.
I never wanted to have to watch the two-part episode that the Evil Hulk was featured in, any time it came on. But I knew I had to, because I hated him so much, and I knew that I had to endure the terror if I was to ever see the Good Hulk kick that evil mofo’s ass. So imagine my disappointment after finding a clip of the final scene, and watching it for the first time in about thirty years after forgetting how it ended. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say the Hulk’s “victory” is rather, well, anticlimactic:
There were a lot of horror films that deeply affected me as a child. One of my earliest film-going remembrances was the time my father took me to see the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) on its first theatrical release. The problem was is that we arrived a bit too early, and we caught the film’s big shock ending … CHARLTON HESTON rides up on the beach with his cave woman girlfriend to see the remnants of the Statue of Liberty and we learn that this so-called “alien planet” is in fact the planet Earth after some unspecified holocaust. As a child of eight, I was only vaguely aware of the nuclear threat at this time, and I was suitably unnerved by this final image. CHUCK HESTON‘s histrionics notwithstanding (“He’s screaming and wailing – just like your mother!” my dad pointed out, laughing), I begged out of watching PLANET and we departed after seeing the considerably milder second feature, THE WATERMELON MAN.
The fact that the world could go up in particulate matter with the press of a button would be explored further in the PLANET OF THE APES sequel, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1969), educating countless school kids about the insecure status of humanity in the postwar world in a succession of G-rated installments.
One other film that clued me in to the haunting finality of death, nuclear or otherwise, was the first adaptation of RICHARD MATHESON‘s “I Am Legend,” THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964). VINCENT PRICE is seemingly the only human being left on the planet after a mysterious plague sweeps the world, transforming other survivors into vampires. PRICE barricades himself in his suburban home (supposed to be in Los Angeles, but shot in Rome – giving the film an even more off-kilter flavor), while at night the undead hordes call out to him to join them – stark shots of black-and-white terror that could be dropped wholesale into GEORGE A. ROMERO‘s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) without the slightest trace of continuity error.
Two scenes in LAST MAN chilled me to the bone, and continue to do so – those who denigrated this film, which included VINCENT PRICE and RICHARD MATHESON, fail to grasp the power this strange film still wields. PRICE loses his young daughter to the plague, and bodies are tossed into a giant fiery pit at the edge of town in an effort to control the pestilence. PRICE tries to spare his daughter an anonymous burial (remember, the Holocaust was still very recent when this was filmed, and filmed in Europe), he is pushed aside by an impatient government worker who says, “There are a lot of daughters down there – including mine!” Never had the Apocalypse been rendered with such blunt, unsympathetic words to my then-tender ears.
The second scene has VINCENT PRICE discovering a bedraggled poodle and he is momentarily cheered with the prospect of a companion to ride out his lonely solitude with – until, of course, he examines the dog’s blood to see that the poodle has the vampire virus, and he collapses in mirthless, bitter laughter. The next scene has PRICE burying the poodle, stake through the heart in his back yard, which should be hysterically funny – but just isn’t.
The message to my young mind was absolutely clear. Death, the ultimate monster, strikes little girls and poodles just as cold and merciless as anyone else, including grown-ups. Furthermore, adults had all the cards in their favor – they could push a button and wipe out humanity, draft young men to fight in foreign wars to die in battle or consign their own children to fiery, bottomless pits with a brisk, bureaucratic efficiency.
I wish there was a heartwarming or reassuring thing to share about this monster kid memory, but there isn’t any. This horror film had fulfilled its obligation of engaging me, thrilling me and introducing me to certain truths that my own parents, at that time, were themselves too terrified to tell.
Hey there Kindertrauma,
I was wondering if you could help me figure out a book that scared me for years.
O.K., all I remember is it was a Dr. Seuss book, the cover was different shades of dark blue.
My cousin used to bring it out to freak me out (gotta love relatives).
I have no idea what it was called but it was something about “Scary.”
I’ve looked everywhere to find this book but nothing.
I figured someone who loved Dr. Seuss as a kid might remember it???
Wish there was more info. to go on.
It’s always bugged me.
Keep up the trauma,
UNK SEZ: Burgen, based on your description I think you are looking for “What Was I Scared Of?” by DR. SUESS. It’s blue for sure and has “scared” in the title! Turns out you are not alone with this trauma, we got a traumafession on it once before HERE!
I’ve been a fan of this website for some time now, so I thought I might finally contribute a precious childhood memory of my own. As an Australian child of the ‘80s I was made to watch the classic Australian film DOT AND THE KANGAROO in primary school (it is kind of educational in that it has native animals dancing around and singing about how they got their Latin names), and there was one scene involving a bunyip that always creeped everyone out.
Being an unusual child, this scene was my favourite, but I’ll do this traumafession on behalf of all my classmates who weren’t as brave as I was. Anyway, the scene starts with NICK CAVE-esque piano intro playing while animated turtles swim over real-life footage of a creek (or billabong) in the outback. Suddenly a hand emerges from the water, then an arm, then an entire Aboriginal Dreamtime monster. The scene is accompanied by an eerily lilting song called ‘Bunyip Moon,’ and it lulls you into a false sense of calm as the bunyip rampages the bush, chasing people, dingoes and kangaroos through the trees. The whole thing has the feel of a beautiful nightmare as the bunyip curls around the moon, appears in campfires and transforms into a bird.
The true moment of horror is at the very end, when the bunyip’s face starts to ‘decompose’ and transform into a cave painting. That’s two seconds that will stay with you for a very, very long time…
AUNT JOHN SEZ: Heidi, if it’s any consolation to your classmates, they are not alone. Both Mr. Canacorn and Absinthe had similar reactions to that bad ass bunyip.
I’m hoping you can help me track down a Chanel No. 5 commercial I saw on network T.V. in what I believe was the late .80s. I have a vague memory of the commercial (though I clearly remember it disturbing and confusing me.) I recall a glamorous woman sitting in a theater, drinking from a bottle of perfume. There’s some sort of creepy music playing over the scene. You hear a loud “sipping through straw” sound effect toward the end of the commercial, and a woman exclaims, “Number Five!” in a breathy squeak. My mother claims the networks pulled this commercial because it taught children that perfume was safe to consume.
Thanks!! As a huge fan of discussing the consistent state of terror I was in from 1986-1993, I am hooked on your site!! Awesome job!!
UNK SEZ:: Tara, could the clip below be the commercial you seek? It does feature a movie theater…
ALSO: I have to thank you Tara. While looking for your trauma I stumbled across a Chanel No.5 commercial that I used to love (below). Now (thanks to you) I know why I loved it so much, it turns out it was directed by RIDLEY SCOTT who directed two of my favorite movies BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN!
UNK SEZ:: Will this be too easy or too hard? How well do you know your sci-fi? Special kinder-thanks go to the indispensable BADMOVIES.ORG for image #10 as my personal DVD was acting ornery! Good luck, kinder-space cadets!